baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series (3)

“Houston has a promising future in VC and baMa will be a big part of that” Xavier Jefferson

Xavier Jefferson is a Research Analyst II & Jr. Portfolio Manager at LifeBridge Financial Group and baMa’s portfolio Manager. We have talked with him about his job journey, his role at baMa and baMa’s impact in the innovation ecosystem in Houston.

IN: Can you explain us how was your upbringing?

I grew up in Louisiana. The first half of my childhood was spent living with my mom, my stepdad, my siblings, my aunt, and my grandmother. When I was 10, I moved about 3 hours away to live with my dad’s parents. This is where I graduated high school, where I met my wife, and the place that I call home – Franklinton, LA.

IN: What made you go to University and get your degree?

Graduating from college was always something I wanted to accomplish; I was the first person in my immediate family to achieve that, and I was fortunate to attend with an athletic scholarship.

IN: How was the journey until then?

My intent was to study medicine, but I realized that’s not something I wanted to do for 4 years. Rather than continue down that path, I changed my major to business after the first week of classes. Being a student athlete was a unique experience. I was committed to football for 40+ hours each week, and held myself to a high standard academically.

IN: And after getting your degree, has it been challenging getting into the labour market?

Very challenging. I began my job search months before graduation, and those efforts were unsuccessful. I knew I wanted to move to Houston, TX, but no one explained what the job market was like post-grad. I was always told, “Get a degree and then you’ll get a job”, but it wasn’t that easy. After two months of attending job fairs, applying to jobs daily, and even cold-calling companies, my current employer offered me a three month, unpaid internship and I’ve been with them for 6 years now.

IN: How did you find out about baMa?

I read an article in the Houston Business Journal about the work Maria was doing with baMa. After sharing my interest in learning more about venture capital, a mutual friend introduced me to Maria.

IN: What did it make you want to be involved as a portfolio manager at baMa?

Right now I work with financial advisors to provide working professionals and retirees educated investment advice. I’ve grown into my role where I am paid to read, to think, and to use that information to make high quality decisions that directly impact our client’s lives – financially and personally. Despite this being a liberating career experience, I also want to work alongside passionate entrepreneurs who are building businesses that are impacting the world and the people in our communities.

IN: Can you explain your main roles at baMa?

I’m primarily responsible for improving the deal flow process by sourcing potential startups for our pitch events in a variety of ways: twitter, google alerts, pitch competitions, partnerships with accelerators, and old-fashioned cold outreach. This also entails managing our pitch applicants, facilitating and leading meetings with founders, and developing pre-selection diligence criteria.

IN: What have you learned over your time as a volunteer at baMa?

As angels, we’re not just check-writers. We’re signing up to work side-by-side with the leadership of a startup. Founders and CEOs are one pitch away from changing their lives. So the meetings have to be just as important to us as it is to them. And the only way to truly understand and appreciate what’s at stake is to listen and ask thoughtful, thought-provoking questions.

IN: How could you describe baMa’s role in #changingthecolorsofinvestment?

When I think about baMa I think about Maria. Her passion for activating angel capital to fund minority founded/serving startups is clear. She lives and breathes it. Not only has it been exciting to be a part of baMa and to learn alongside her, it’s also exciting to think about baMa’s role in changing the colors of investment in HTX. Houston has a promising future in VC and baMa will be a big part of that.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

June 2021

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Changing the colors of investment event

baMa has the objective of changing the colors of investment by activating diverse capital in order to achieve a more inclusive innovation ecosystem.  To spread baMa’s mission we have  hosted a hybrid event to present the summer pitch and different panels with multitude of speakers.

The event started if off with the summer pitch for members-only. During the pitch event: Freeman Capital; Hera Biotech;  Change: water labs & Interstellar Labs  have presented their future-driven companies. Our members have decided to do group diligence with Hera Biotech, a medical technology company coming out of San Antonio. Interstellar Labs also garnered a lot of interest from our members, and our senior investor members have decided to pursue individual due diligence with it.

After the pitch event the panels, powered by DiA, began with Driving forces for a diverse and inclusive ecosystem. President & CEO of Nation Waste, Inc, Maria Rios and CEO at baMa Maria Maso have discussed the current state of events embracing diversity and inclusivity in the ecosystem. Maso stressed how important is innovation for her and her family, as for health reasons they moved to Houston. Therefore, activating more capital to support innovation is her main passion. Additionally, she explained that “diversity is not only bringing different colours to the table is to achieve better decisions by taking into account different backgrounds and ideas.”

Maria Rios has been optimistic about women in the innovation ecosystem and has encouraged anyone to take on the opportunities and to help each other. “Women investors can grow when they get the tools and skills so educating and mentoring is crucial to encourage them” stressed Rios. She ended the talk by giving some advice for the entrepreneurs to get into the innovation ecosystem. “You have to find yourself and love your business while learning from others and to how to do financials and surround yourself with people passionate like you” she passionately told the audience.

Maria Rios & Maria Maso at the event (from left to right)

After this talk, founder of Watchherwork, Denise Hamilton; founder of Ossy International, Shecky Ray; CEO of Salman Solutions, Samira Salman &  CEO of SheSpace, Stephanie Tsuru began with the panel: She believed she could so she did. This panel named by our sponsor, SheSpace, has focused on the challenges of women entrepreneurs and investors but also how to overcome them while encourage any female that want to take part in the innovation ecosystem.

The speakers stressed how important is to build strong relationships and a network full of die-harts. “You should purge the idea of having millions of associates, you need friendships and those who will advocate for you” described Hamilton.  Women need to be in the room where things happen while building relationships. At the end of the day, as Salman expressed, “you do business with people that you trust so you need to connect to the people.” Connecting with the people is made by being authentic and talking to them from your heart.

Denise Hamilton; Samira Salman, Shecky Ray & Stephanie Tsuru (from left to right)

The next panel was Portfolio diversification done right, risk, reward & social impact. Phillip Yates, General Counsel at baMa and managing Partner at Diversity Fund was the moderator of the panel and the speakers has been managing Director at GOOSE Capital, Chris E. Staffel;  Founder and CEO at Fluent, Beth McKeon and Managing Partner at Continental Venture, Ahmed AlTammar.

The speakers have given a series of recommendations when it comes to diversifying any company portfolio. For McKeon it is vital to check the riskiness of the business model before diversifying. You should not diversify “when a business model is dreamier than reality because you want to invest and have success in the long term” McKeon has further explained. AlTammar has encouraged “to join other pears if you don’t know how to begin diversifying and investing while learning as you go.” Staffel has highlighted how Goose Capital has a diverse portfolio and strongly support joining forces with baMa in order to increase its diversity.

Ahmed Altammar, Chris E. Staffel, Beth McKeon and Philip Yates (from left to right)

The next panel was Activating investors of colors with principal at Shell Ventures and Advisory Board member at baMa, Andrea Course as the moderator and Director at McNair Center of Entrepreneur, Patrick Woock; Nonprofit Leader & Fundraiser, Jessica Graham  and co-founder and managing director at Urban Capital network, Lenny Saizan as the speakers. The panel has stated that there is not enough diversity and that investors tend to invest in other people like them. Additionally, Course stated that “2% of VC founding went to women and .02% to women of colour so there is a clear problem.”

All the panelists have expressed that diversity is fundamental to get better returns. Specifically, Woock advised to the audience that they should know the people in the industry while also understand the industries that you get into. “Timing is also crucial; you need to see where the trend is going and the demographics” he further explained. Saizan added that there are huge opportunities in tech, and that “joining an investment group or going to baMa or Urban Capital network to get around more people to help you with the decision to invest.” Graham closed the panel by also encouraging the attendees and anyone to surround themselves like  baMa and to “not underestimate the value that you bring to the ecosystem.”

The last panel was Leading innovation industries. Product Designer at Schlumberger and DiA Manager at baMa, Mafe Tafur was the moderator, and the speakers were Chief Strategist at Women and Drones, Kimberly Penn; Vice President at Hamilton Health Box, Adrian Trömel and CEO at SOTAOG Sarah Tamilarasan.

The speakers all described what traits innovators they admire have. For Trömel there are two types of innovators: ones give the space to the team to develop, and lead the team, others intervene in the solution side with the approaches to the problem. Tamilarasan added that is fundamental “the ability to not give up because solutions are hard to find so persistence and endurance are necessary.” Penn expressed that “innovators have to create a company culture that fosters the grow and to take risks.”

The event was closed by Arnobio Morelix and Gary Bolles talk on How to navigate economic changes. Bolles has expressed that entrepreneur to navigate the systemic change that we are currently seeing it is crucial to have the right mindset, skillset, and toolset.  “Mindset is how to approach problem; skillset is the way we try to solve problems and toolset enable us to be effective to solve problems” he further explained. Digital proficiency and being a problem solver are crucial.

Morelix closed the event by thanking the sponsors: V&E; Boral Agency; SheSpace and The Cannon. We would like to thank once more to our incredible sponsors and supporters. Without them changing the colors of investment would not be possible. We will keep all of you informed of the upcoming updates regarding Due Diligence with some of the pitch companies. LET’S KEEP CHANGING THE COLORS OF INVESTMENT TOGETHER!

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

June 2021

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series (2)

“You need to show your passion straightforward, getting out your impulsiveness and making sure everything is set up” Adriana Gonzalez

Adriana Gonzalez is the President of la Cámara de Empresarios Latinos de Houston (CELH), founded in 1994 to support the growth of established Latin American businesses in Houston (such as restaurants, gas companies, communication and publicity companies and more). We have talked with her about Latino entrepreneurs, their struggles and some advices to build their businesses while getting education.

IN: Do Latinos face extra challenges when they want to create a small business?

Yes, because we come from a type of culture that make us very impulsive. In our countries If we want to open a restaurant, we open it right away. It is difficult to understand that in other countries there is a process to be successful.

IN: How can we change the current trend?

Organisations like baMa o la CELH that give information, education and support are crucial. They need some type of organisation that is going to tell them step by step how to open a business, how to do a business plan, how to do marketing, how to invest, and how to present themselves in front of investors or panels. As baMa, at the Chamber we have several educational programs.

IN: One of your programs is the Programa de Excelencia Empresarial, can you explain us what entails?

It is a series of ten-twelve week classes where every Tuesday night at 7 pm mentors give talks about business plan, strategy, banking, etc. For example, Maria Maso is giving an investing workshop. We have an expert that is going to talk about something to do with business. At the end of these weeks, they must present in front of a panel their business plan and their business ideas. A lot of these entrepreneurs have already a business, but they have never gone through the education, the information and the support phases, so we provide them with so.

IN: Why is it important to have Latinos founders?

Mainly because they are the example for the little ones. The Latino founders are the ones to look up to, and to learn from. They can guide, show others how to get where they are and also give advice on how to put an idea in the market.

IN: At baMa we have the campaign #changingthecolorsofinvestment, and because of that we are hosting a course with CELH, can you explain which are the goals and who should attend it?

There is a lot of people with the money and the ideas that are coming to the US. baMa is then the perfect place to educate themselves and learn how to invest in start-ups that will end up being beneficial for the investors and the entrepreneurs.

IN: What can la CELH add to creating a more inclusive Latino ecosystem?

CELH can find the corporations that are inclusive and the ones where they can learn from one another. As a Harvard study shows, when there is a diverse investing board, decisions tend to be 60% better than those that have a homogeneous board. Additionally, 80% of ideas of that diverse board are doable and have success. This will ultimately create a circle of believing, investing in start-ups and reinvesting in others. We educate, we support and inform, this is the only way to help and receive the investment.  

IN: baMa is a member of CELH, what are the benefits of being a member of la Cámara?

They will get education, support, and information through workshops, seminars, and promotions. We bring those corporations and small businesses to different talks and workshops to introduce themselves to the community: they educate while getting promotion and possible future clients.

IN: Have you got any advice for Latino founders that need to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?

I would recommend having everything in order. You need to show your passion straightforward, getting out your impulsiveness and making sure everything is set up (expenses, profits, and business plan).  When you start a business and trying to get capital you must go step by step, do a lot of hard work while not losing you passion. You must keep in mind that you are going to make sacrifices and that you will need to surround you with experts and people that will help you in case you need them.

IN: What are some opportunities that the pandemic has given to Latinos driven markets?

The pandemic has given the opportunity to grow massively because they turned reorganized themselves. A lot of businesses I know, had to sell online, while the shops were closed and are in fact doing much better now. I have also seen opportunities to help each other’s businesses, by given advice or sharing strategies.

IN: What are the challenges of not networking face to face?

As Hispanics we have deeply missed going out and being able to physically touch the other person. Nevertheless, we did not stop having the dinners or events, we changed them to a virtual environment, and more people joined us there. Networking in person is especially important, so at the Chamber when things get slightly better, we will organize something in person.

IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa this year?

I hope that we see a lot of growth. Specially I would like to see more education on how to start investing and how to look for the right company to invest in from the Latinos perspective. baMa can grow and educate them on how to do that.

IN: Would you recommend baMa to more people?

This is a easy question: of course! The opportunity that baMa gives to start-ups and investors is monumental. baMa is a fundamental part of the circle of educating the investors and helping minority-led start-ups to get capital.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

June 2021

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#changingthecolorsofinvestment at SheSpace

Maria Maso, founder and CEO of baMa and Stephanie Tsuru, cofounder of SheSpace have talked about the challenges that women face in the business and innovation ecosystem, while giving some personal advice on how to overcome them.

The event was a total success with more than 40 people gathered in the in-person and Facebook live event hosted at SheSpace.  The audience, mostly females and from diverse backgrounds, had the chance to network and speak to incredible founders, entrepreneurs and investors that attended the event. Additionally the event was sponsored by Brendal Boral Angency. To Brenda Boral and the whole team we are forever grateful for making possible such event.

baMa was born due to the impact that innovation was having in Maria’s personal life. She saw that it was changing the lives of her kids and that she should invest in innovative ideas. While she tried to this, she saw that she did not find diverse start-ups where she “could put in the capital and influence the future of my kids.” The Association has currently got 40 members that may be pro-investors  and VCs or have little experience with early-stage investment, but they “all find a community”, added Maria Maso.

SheSpace’s founder, Stephanie Tsuru, was interested in mentoring and coaching while networking. She saw that there was a real need of creating a place to gather and grow into a cross-networking arena. Her co-founder Katie Tsuru was discouraged by the “inequities with women in corporate settings.” Therefore, together they wanted to “break the myth of women not supporting women, and in fact they do work well together” as Stephanie explained. The company has about 80+ members and “anyone is eligible for the education given at SheSpace talks and people can be connected to the subject matter experts” Stephanie further explained.

Speaking about the challenges that SheSpace encountered, Tsuru explained that “it came together quite smoothly because the time was right and there had never been more women entrepreneurs.” The main obstacle was finding the funding for other women. Personally, Stephanie Tsuru had trouble “finding women to look up to and to have as role models because there weren’t many.” Fortunately, nowadays there are experienced businesswomen who can share their experiences and help out younger and newer women to the ecosystem.

Maria Maso found it challenging when she stopped working to focus fully on her family. Nevertheless, stop working in a corporate setting, showed that that job wasn’t meant for her, “I realised I wanted to be an entrepreneur.” The whole pandemic was a challenge for baMa which was born just 4 days before. However, the pandemic, showed the importance of educating. Therefore, the Diversity Investor Academy was also born: “to educate whoever wanted to learn about early-stage investment”, stated Maso. With approachable online courses and personalised courses with institutions such as the Houston Community College and La Cámara de Empresarios Latinos, DiA wants to make education valuable and easy to consume. 

Brenda Boral, the moderator intervened when talking about building a support system. Women supporting women does not always happened and to encourage women a good network and education are needed. “Women are beginning to be interested in investing and growing businesses” highlighted Maria. Additionally, having the right community is vital as Maria Maso told the audience, “ambitious people that pushed me to go forward, so I will advise everybody to surround themselves with people with different capabilities that will help you.”

If, as a women, you are struggling to begin a business or to learn how to invest in companies, baMa’s CEO gave three advices: “Know who you are and where you want to go while being yourself, start networking by looking into the community and be ready for the No and the flaws because not always is going to go everything smoothly and perfect.” SheSpace founder, Stephanie Tsuru added that women must “get used to making mistakes and open up to failure, conquer the fear and step out.” Moreover, she that to make a real change, women need to “stop using excuses due to the fear, and lack of confidence.”  The fear and lack of confidence can lead to an imposter syndrome, so Stephanie recommended to the audience that “it is about changing the mindset: you are going to make it.

Maria Maso, Brenda Boral, and Stephanie Tsuru talking to the public and giving some advice on how to fit in the innovation ecosystem.

How does an entrepreneur now what is a good business idea? For Stephanie “the right idea comes at the right time, we did research and settled our mind into SheSpace.” Maria, contrary to Stephanie, has a laptop with a list of ideas and then she tends to share the thoughts, talk about it to a lot of different people, and “ go through maturation process.”

One of the attendees had a question regarding the red flags of investing in a company. For Maria one of the main things that baMa looks up is the team because “in early-stage the ideas can change but the entrepreneur and the team have to be strong to survive the changing of plans.” Additionally, when “somebody comes in telling me that they have no competitors and that they are the best in the market, we don’t believe it and they demonstrate poor making skills” added Maria.  Andre Course, one of the attendees, investor and advisory board member at baMa, added that the two red flag are when the candidates that are pitching get very defensive or aren’t honest, exaggerating or blatantly lie about other investors interest in their companies.

Another question asked by the public, was how to start connecting with people when you are new in a city. Maria responded that you need to find out the right community, while “looking for organisations of support and attending different events such as the Houston Rodeo Week.”  Stephanie added that spaces such as SheSpace try to make the integration better and quicker because there are women from all backgrounds and ones that are new to Houston. She also suggested that it is key to “go to a lot of different places, making yourself known to other people.”

At the end of the talk, all the attendees were invited to know SheSpace, had a wonderful lunch and the ability to network and connect with amazing founders, investors and interesting women in the ecosystem.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

May 2021

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series

“Investing in minorities is fundamental” Sylvia Kampshoff

Sylvia Kampshoff is the founder of Kanthaka, a fitness app that provides users to book a trainer anytime and anywhere. We have talked with her about women entrepreneurs, their struggles and challenges when getting funding, Kanthaka’s Republic campaign and some advices to minority entrepreneurs.

IN: How has been the journey since you founded Kanthaka in 2016?

Super exciting, and I have been able to learn so much. Zero regrets. The whole community in Texas has also been amazing and supportive. You know people say that raising funds as a woman is difficult, but in my experience, there are a lot of Angels and funds who love to support women and great founders in general.

IN: So, you didn’t face extra challenges you raise capital for being a women entrepreneur?

I think that when you show a lot of growth and traction, it isn’t an issue being a woman. Nevertheless, the research shows that only 2% of females get investment. So, women do find it harder to start their businesses, it is a harsh reality. We need to keep pushing because there are companies that have extreme potential to get VC  investments, but the stereotype of being a woman still plays a major role.

In my case, when I meet up with investors, I’m optimistic, and I don’t get the feeling that being a woman is a disadvantage. I think that it is because I have a strong background in law and private equity what most men can relate with. I’m also confident in my abilities and what we are building and that surely helps.

IN: How can we change this situation? How do you think that women can get venture capitalists interested in them? 

Investing in minorities is fundamental. There are female investors that helped Kanthaka, and doing the same for other businesses is the way to go. Women must prove society wrong and show that we can create great businesses and attract potential investors the same way men can by showing the even better and stronger numbers and growth. At the end your numbers rule. I don’t want an investor to invest in Kanthaka because I am a woman but because it’s a high potential startup.

In: At baMa we have #changingthecolorsofinvestment, a campaign that highlights the importance of having a more inclusive innovation ecosystem, do you believe in the importance of diverse founders and minority-servicing start-ups?

Without a doubt, 100%. We are currently missing out on so much great potential and BaMa will help change that.

IN: With many free fitness apps. How does Kanthaka stand out?

It has always been a crowded space, and more since 2020 where gyms closed, and home sport increased. Kanthaka is different because we offer a trustworthy trainer that goes to our clients homes. Our client is 30+, and they don’t want a pre-recorded video in order to train. They want accountability and a person that they can actually talk with. We give them a service that makes it possible to stay in a healthy routine and to work out at the convenience of their home. In the upcoming months, we will start upselling nutrition and apparel, to provide the full package to live happier, longer and healthier.

IN: At Kanthaka you are launching a crowdfunding campaign next week, can you tell us more about your Republic campaign.

Great question, yes, I am super excited about our Republic crowdfunding campaign. They only accept less than 1% of the companies who apply and I feel very lucky they chose us. We launched some days ago and already oversubscribed our minimum investment amount by 152%. I just love the idea that now our amazing users can join our journey to revolutionize the fitness space together. Join us!

IN: What have you learnt over your fundraising period?

Fundraising is the art of storytelling. As a founder you can make the company better from the feedback that you get from [business] angels and venture capitalists.  Working with VCs and accepting their feedbacks helps getting a clearer vision because they have more experience of what is scalable, what has high growth potential, and what they want to see around in the future.

IN: Would you have done anything different?

There is fundamentally one lesson that I’ve learned: female founders need to go straight to the point and ask the investors for the check. When I started, I had angels that showed interest, but in fact they weren’t interested in investing. They wanted to keep talking and meeting up with me, and I was too scared to ask for the check.

I was bad at asking for money. Now I pitch them once, they have the chance to review everything, they know we have a lot of investors on board, and I send all the due diligence materials. They know the terms and I pop the big question. I don’t play around anymore.

IN: That way of proceeding is something you have learned with experience over the years.

At the beginning you feel like angels and VCs are doing you a favour, and they are not. They have the option of being part of something big if they don’t want to, that’s fine. It took me forever to ask for money. We need to get used to doing that, and to have a really good story to sell the product.

IN: Can you give any advices on how to scale up a business?

If you are thinking of building up a start-up or a business with high growth potential, talk to investors early. They will be the first believers so give them a great valuation in order to get the funds to grow. From investors, you will get money, advice and connections. It is important to find that first person that will open the doors to other people. In sum, spend significant time with that to allow you to focus on your business.

IN: What can you say to other people that may be wanting to start a new business but are afraid to do so?

Yes, it is scary at the beginning. I would say, go for it, don’t be scared. Don’t expect an incredible growth from the beginning. It will not be that all the sudden you will have thousands of customers. You grow with it. Get out there, speak with as many entrepreneurs and mentors as possible that give you confidence. In addition, for me, having a team is crucial.  My biggest mistake was thinking that the moment I put Kanthaka in the app store that it would go crazy. If things were so simple, everyone would be doing it, so you need your time to grow with it.

IN: Would you recommend baMa to other companies to become part of our portfolio?

Of course, Maria is an absolutely amazing woman and friend and building something great that is really important for the whole ecosystem to start focusing more on minorities.

IN: would you recommend baMa to any other founder?

I definitely do. BaMa is so important for the Texas ecosystem and I can only highly recommend it. BaMa under the lead of Maria Maso will achieve great things.

About Sylvia Kampshoff and Kanthaka: Sylvia Kampshoff is the founder and CEO from Kanthaka. She founded Kanthaka to serve a horribly underserved demographic. Through the app or webpage you can book a trainer anytime and anywhere and you can practice yoga, general training or virtual training at the convenience of your home (live virtual or one on one at home). .

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

May 2021

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series

“Be flexible, answer the questions and be comfortable standing up to the scrutiny” Stephanie Tsuru

Stephanie Tsuru is the founder of SheSpace, a work and meeting place where women can find community, support and grow their dreams. As baMa’s #changingthecolorsofinvestment event with SheSpace approaches, we have talked with her about women in the innovation ecosystem, their struggles and challenges and some advices to face them.

IN: Why did Shespace come to life?

For many reasons we wanted to create a space where women could improve their use of time and space, to work differently and more efficiently. This expands to how women live. It is possible to live in a more efficient way, merging work, and personal life by surrounding women’s workspace with the things they need to accomplish in their daily routine. This allows women to put time back into time impoverished life.  At SheSpace women from all backgrounds find a myriad of alternatives to working, having meetings or events.

We have offices, private desks or our vibrant community space with a coffee-shop-vibe. At our facility, women can find whatever they need in their lives to be more productive and successful. Another great attraction to a female focused space is women enjoy the freedom of working and interacting without being judged or in fear of pushback from male colleagues. Women flourish in spaces where they can say what they feel, wear what they wish and know that the woman down the hall will support her through challenges and obstacles.

Additionally, there are dozens of women organizations in Houston, but networking solely within their own network. We believe that having a space to cross-network is necessary, so we are addressing improving the way we network as well.

IN: What type of community can female founders find in SheSpace?

Female founders regardless of the industry they are in, have similar personal traits: they are passionate, ambitious, and tenacious. Part of what they need is support and they can achieve this by being be connected to like-minded women. At SheSpace they find this community, and support because there is an implicit understanding of what they have been through and continue to go through daily. The struggles and triumphs run parallel.

IN: At baMa we are holding a campaign #changingthecolrosofinvestment to raise awareness about the importance of female leaders and founders, why is it important to have female founders?

Being a founder is not for the faint of heart. It is tough and very hard work. Women are well-equipped to prosper and succeed in this environment, however, there is still a gender gap in the start-up community. Supporting Female Founders is our one of our priorities at SheSpace. We are chock full of Female Founders representing at last count 12 countries. All women find a community here. baMa and Shespace are clearly both working on building a diverse community, which is why our partnering is so powerful.

IN: Do women face extra challenges when they want to create a business?

Without a doubt, but I think that the scale is starting to tip in the other direction. We think women get more support in small businesses than in large corporate settings. And women supporting women allows women-owned small businesses to get further faster.

We have come a long way, but there is still much to do, but women supporting women will make the change happen. Contrary to the myth, women do support women, and work well together.

IN: How can we change the current trend?

Women supporting women is a huge step. Support comes from developing your relationships and from growing and cementing connections. It is all about connections and building relationships, and we must learn how to find them and nourish them. That is why at SheSpace we are so excited to partner with some of the most amazing women leaders and businesses in Houston. This is how the change will come and come with certainty and speed.

IN: What can SheSpace add to building up this more inclusive ecosystem?

The priority is support and assistance regardless of what women business owners need. Whether they need funding, marketing or leadership development, SheSpace is equipped to isolate the problem and find the solution. This usually begins with the finding the funding.

IN: What can you say to women that may be wanting to start a new business but are afraid?

The idea of women being risk-aversive is not true. What I share with younger women or women thinking of starting a business is don’t think for a second that female founders, the women that came before you were not afraid. We have simply learned to conquer the fear and how to be comfortable with the unknown. I will advise women entrepreneurs to figure out the steps and then conquer the fear of taking the next step. Who cares if women have more challenges? The success when it comes is going to be evermore so rewarding.

IN:Have you got any advice for female founders that need to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?

It comes down to preparing a good business plan, anticipating the questions that will be asked, analysing the data while doing a lot of research. If you do not think creating a solid business plan is your forte, get help. You can find great women that can mentor, and coach you because they want other women to succeed. Definitely, a good business plan is crucial, and to view it as an hypothesis because it doesn’t always work out as planned. Be flexible, answer the questions and be comfortable standing up to the scrutiny.

IN: How does pattern recognition in the entrepreneur world affect the lack of women-owned companies?

I do not think it is any different than other factors that affect women in companies and the entrepreneurship world. Everything affects us more; it cannot be singled out because of society. Pattern recognition is just another barrier that we must break while changing society. There is movement, so I am more encouraged than discouraged.

IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa this year?

baMa is headed uphill quickly, and I want baMa to find the gritty and hardworking women that really needs them to succeed. Women are sharp and have marvellous ideas, but the funding gap and lack of education in how to address funding opportunities, in the sense of where to go to get the funding, still needs to be addressed. I am excited for baMa, SheSpace and women in general.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

May 2021

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series

“With DiA’s personalized course, the HCC wants people to be able to see the perspective of what investors look into” Brenda Rios

Brenda Rios is the Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives & Community Relations at the Houston Community College, and with the Diversity Investor Academy powered by baMa are creating a personalized course. We talk with her about the 101 Business Angel course, what is the role of education and women and minority entrepreneurs.

IN: What role does education and diversity play in the innovation ecosystem?

It is a huge component; education goes hand by hand with diversity. Stakeholders, and Students can make an impact in the HCC. We involve the power of community with centres of excellence that focus on specific market needs such as technology, cosmetology, manufacturing, and construction. Innovation in all shape and forms. The HCC supports local shops and helps them to put all the efforts into strategy to evolve further.

For us, innovation is the power of generating those alliances with creating new businesses, products and services by developing partnerships and entrepreneurial resources in our workshops. In addition, it is pivotal to network, and build connections that support the innovation ecosystem and minority entrepreneurs.  

IN: How can we create a more educated community of early-stage investors?

Working on the course with the Diversity Investors Academy is one step. At the HCC we hear from minorities entrepreneurs over and over about the lack of investment. We believe in the importance of supporting education that shows the steps of becoming a certified business angel investor. With this education you can give financial information to individuals that want to grow their money, help them to better assess the relevance of sustainability and how to leverage the risk. Some individuals may have the funds, and want to grow them, but don’t know how or feel uncomfortable with early-stage investing.

IN: At baMa we have created a campaign called #changinthecolorsofinevstment. Why is it important to support such campaigns and diverse founders?

It is super important because diverse founders understand the struggles of their communities and the gaps in their markets. Thanks to these founders we can get different and new products, that have not been created because they have never been thought of.  With these campaigns the investment community can grow.

IN: Have you got any advice for minority entrepreneurs to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?

First, I will tell them to maintain their daily jobs until they have stability with their financials. Then, once they have a rhythm in creating their business, with some profits and a strong team, I would advise them to grow their network, and the brand. It is vital to practice and do your research to connect with people that will guide you such as mentors, coaches, institutions, and investors.

IN: Has being a woman affected your growth process?

Yes, and especially when I was a young professional. I have found that it is not so much as being at the table, but a matter of being taken seriously. I would say that you need to prepare yourself by knowing who is at the table and thinking about how you can position yourself while communicating properly.

IN: What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who want to be part of the ecosystem?

I would say that if you have a business idea because you understand a particular niche and see the gaps and the opportunities in the market, you shouldn’t be afraid to create that business idea and go for it! If it is not you, who else would do it?

As a women we start doubting ourselves and like to have everything planned out, but don’t let that stop you. Entrepreneurs do their research and continue tweaking their business idea on the go. You must understand that being an entrepreneur is a journey, and you must feel comfortable with the daily changes.

IN: What is DiA adding to the HCC with the personalized course?

It is the opportunity of creating cohorts that understand the step by step of becoming an investor. At HCC we don’t only want to create workshops that teach individuals how to perform in pitch competitions; we want people to be able to see the perspective of what investors look into. With DiA, the attendees will learn this by understanding the process that takes place in early-stage investment.

With this personalized group we are creating with baMa, we will be able to teach a group of people who might be curious to invest in early-stage investment, get more clarity about the process to getting certified through several modules, and understand the steps to end up investing successfully and giving back to our community.

IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa and at DiA this year? Would you recommend baMa to other people?

I would love to see baMa grow world-wide! I absolutely recommend baMa! Minorities add value, and voice to specific struggles, but still are voiceless. The ecosystem needs much more initiatives and education that targets minority entrepreneurs and minority servicing markets such as baMa.

The power of focusing on minority entrepreneurs and having diverse investors looking at these types of ventures is a huge opportunity for economic growth. The National Association of Investment Companies recently released a report on the promising economic positioning of minority business enterprises (MBEs), which raised an interesting theory; the idea is that, if MBEs were to reach the average revenues generated by majority-white businesses, it would boost the U.S. GDP by a whopping $1.37 trillion. So we must be able to change the current statistics and prepare investors to seek out diversity in their sourcing of investment candidates. This will impact our community as a whole, and it’s the right recipe for a healthy innovative ecosystem.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

April 2021

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Rice Alliance is baMa’s Champion of diversity

Rice Alliance has become a baMa Champion of diversity to foster a diverse and supportive innovation ecosystem. “Rice Alliance aims to foster an innovative and entrepreneurial culture that not only values differences, but also elevates them as sources of strength and innovation”, said Managing Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Brad Burke.

Rice Alliance has decided to join forces with baMa and become a Champion of diversity because they believe in supporting a more inclusive startup ecosystem and in “listening to what the community needs and using our resources and network to support those efforts”, added Brad Burke. For Rice Alliance, “baMa provides a robust approach by providing training and expanding opportunities for under-represented founders to access capital, while expanding the pool of angel investment available for founders.”

“Rice Alliance becoming a Champion of diversity shows that joining forces to #changethecolorsofinvestment is not only necessary, but happening right now”, said baMa’s CEO, Maria Maso. “Diversity and education go hand by hand so counting with the support of Rice Alliance is a huge step in order to accomplish baMa’s goal: close the investment gap in minority-led startups.

Rice Alliance with their programming in Houston and long-established network, is an excellent way of supporting baMa’s mission. The organization can foster innovation and diversity through their programming, with which they want to ensure a platform for sharing ideas of diverse start-ups. One way Rice Alliance and baMa are continuing to work together is through the Rice Business Plan Competition. baMa participated in this event and gave a $50.000 investment prize to SwiftSku, Inc. 

The RBPC “gives collegiate entrepreneurs real-world experience to pitch their startups, enhance their business strategy and learn what it takes to launch a successful company,” Brad Burke explained. The group provides mentoring, guidance, and connections to the entrepreneurship ecosystem to their students. It also provides investors with early-stage deal-flow and student startups with capital to launch their businesses, through the $1M annual prize pool at the competition.

For this year, Rice Alliance expects that baMa is going to introduce them to “a more diverse set of new startups from across the country that we can support through our programming and provide a platform for sharing their ideas to our networks” stated Brad Burke. In addition, it wants to collectively increase the success of diverse statups by learning about and plugging into the education side of baMa, the Diversity Investor Academy.  

“baMa has become a leader in the region in supporting underrepresented founders and bringing more capital to these startups. We expect that support for baMa will continue to grow from other members of the innovation ecosystem to further this mission” concluded Brad Burke.

“Through education we can lead future excellent business angels to believe not only in investing in diversity because morally is the correct thing to do, but also to contribute to the innovation ecosystem and get better returns” concluded baMa’s CEO, Maria Maso.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

April 2021

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series

‘Don’t get discouraged, dig deep, pivot and win’ Alejandro Mendez

Alejandro Mendez is the CEO of Royal Eagle Capital Partners, and a baMa member. We talk with him about cross-boarder investment, portfolio management, minority founders and what is like to be a baMa member.

IN: One of your focus areas is cross-border investing, what do you specifically?

My experience with cross-border investing started in 2005 owning a business in Mexico with clients in USA. Then in 2008, I joined JP Morgan Chase and then Citibank here in Houston to serve Latin American clients under their Wealth Management Division.

While working for these major banks, I saw the opportunity to create a solution to link Latin America opportunities with international investors and capital markets. Regarding cross-boarding investments, I found out that middle market companies in Latin America need to access to capital since their local capital markets and banks are not as liquid and dynamic as what we have here in USA.

I believe there are great opportunities to find good operators, sponsors and companies that are looking partners and capital to expand their companies and markets. We are always open for good returns and opportunities to create partnerships with good operators internationally.

IN: What are the trends for 2021 in cross-border investing?

It is a remarkably interesting year. Because the pandemic, in my point of view, there are going to be industries that will be struggling. They will need to adapt to survive. As dramatic as it sounds, some of companies and industries will need to change their entire business model to serve their clients through the use of virtual tools, digital solutions and technology.

We see opportunities in renewal energy, digital banking and cryptocurrencies, logistics and distribution centers, infrastructure and interconnection services, data centers, with a sustainability and ESG (Environmental/Social & Governance) approach. M&A activities will increase for second semester of 2021.

IN: baMa still is not doing cross boarding investing, what advices could you give us, when it comes to first start cross boarding investment?

It depends on what type of investor you are. baMa is a seed/venture capital investment approach, which look for early-stage companies, where risk is acceptable if you have a high-reward yield.

In this particular case, if you are a venture capital or early-stage investor you must have a very strong due diligence team and dedicated process; you need to do your homework analysing the market in terms of size and potential upside; you need evaluate how to add value not only with your investment but with your experience in operations, process, corporate governance, and technology.

Also, is particularly important to perform a pre-money and post-money valuation, to understand the cash flow of the company and the IRR (internal rate of return) of your investment.

IN: Can you give us some tips on how to do a right portfolio diversification?

A right portfolio diversification would comprise anything digital and technology oriented that make things easier for the user. We believe investments should be linked to data mining and managing, clean green and renewable energy, fintech and logistics.

Today, we have three vertical companies related to green energy, fintech and wealth management. In addition, we are launching a crypto and data mining company here in Texas. In Royal Eagle these are the sectors where we are focusing since we believe they have positive trends for growth in the next 5 to 7 years.

IN: How can you make social impact with your portfolio management?

Nowadays, investors and companies are looking for deals that are good business but also are good for the people. Sustainability, green economy and ESG are the name of the game. Investors and smart money are looking for companies that knows what to do, with a strong operation team and solid corporate governance policies. It is very important to create policies to serve your employees internally and also, at the same time, create programs to serve the communities you are in.

In general, here in USA and Latin America there is huge room of improvement to include more Women in key positions, have more Women performing Board positions, and create an inclusive environment with equal salaries and opportunities for all.

To make a real social impact, we believe that you need to go with an open mentality to serve the communities and add value. Is more about them and less about you.

In Royal Eagle, we have a professional team in charge of our social impact efforts to design programs and strategies based on what the community needs and not what we think they might need. You need to analyse what it is necessary for that community specifically. The needs from one community might be completely different to another community. In order to create a real impact, you need to address what are top need of each community and execute accordingly.

IN: What would you say to anybody that wants to start a company? And, specifically, what would you say to any minority that may doubt on whether to create a start-up or not.

No is a powerful word. If you have the dream, the desire and drive, do not get discourage when you get a NO from an Investor, a potential customer, or an important Stakeholder. Use the NO in your favour. When somebody says No to me, it happens two things: it makes me eager to show them wrong and/or I learn from the no, then pivot, and become better. In fact, you are going to get more no’s that yes’s especially when you are trying to raise capital, so don’t get discouraged, dig deep, pivot and win.

Secondly, you need investors that understands your business, the industry, and their cycles you are in and support you in the long run. The first two years are the toughest. Thirdly, you need to have a team that believes in your vision and share your values. Your Team is key, look for people that are smarter than you, get talented people in key positions. Share the vision and the wealth with them. Build a team to complement you and your weaknesses.

IN: What do you expect from baMa this year?

BaMa is facing a consolidating year. baMa had a challenging start in 2020 since it was launched before the pandemic. I am expecting baMa to grow with more members and investors from our community. I always think the due diligence process and the quality of the deals can be improved but baMa is getting the job done.

Maria with baMa is creating an amazing outlet for the minority communities, especially for us the Hispanics which we are behind compared to others as Investors and to get funding for our companies. I anticipate baMa to grow and become a real force in our community.

IN: Would you recommend other people to join baMa as members? Why?

I think that if you are a start-up or a venture capital investor, baMa represents an easy way of getting deals. baMa has a team in place to get access to quality companies and deals for you. Is always good not to waste valuable resources doing due diligence and finding deals. With baMA you will get pre-vetted deals and at the same time you will interact with Investors like you to learn, co-invest and exchange ideas.

You get a lot of value from your baMa membership. The membership cost is very affordable compared to the amount opportunities and knowledge you can get access for being a member.

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa

April 2021